Man facing child sexual assault charges, caught in ICE bust

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BEAVER DAM –- A 27-year-old Beaver Dam man faces new charges after a federal investigation known as "Operation Sunflower" was executed.

"We arrested 245 people on criminal charges of child exploitation. 222 in the United States and 23 people overseas," said John Morton, Dir. of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

ICE announced on Thursday, January 3rd the cumulative results of "Operation Sunflower." The five-week mission utilized a cyber-crimes center to track down users of a child porn sharing website.

In Peterson's case, federal authorities say they found hundreds of emails to and from other members of the site. They contained roughly 25 videos and nearly 200 images of child pornography.

Investigators traced Peterson's email accounts back to him home in Beaver Dam. There, they say he admitted to using his cell phone to take pictures and videos of not just one, but three different children he knew.

In a search warrant obtained by FOX6 News, police say he would make the recordings while they were sleeping. 

The director of ICE says while hundreds of accused child exploiters have been identified, arresting them does not solve the root of the problem.

"A sad reminder to us all that online child exploitation is a very real part of our lives and demands, absolutely demands, our full attention as a nation," said Morton.

Peterson was arrested in October 2012 and is already charged locally with multiple felony charges for allegedly sexually assaulting a child and posting pictures online. He now faces new federal charges.

Peterson will be arraigned in Milwaukee County on Friday, January 4th for the October arrest. He'll be in Dodge county on Tuesday, January 8th for the charges stemming from the Homeland Security Investigations arrest.

The name Operation Sunflower was chosen to commemorate a case from 2011 in which Danish law enforcement officials shared images and chat board information about a 16-year-old boy who allegedly planned to rape an 11-year-old girl. One image taken from a moving car showed a road sign with a sunflower on it. ICE's Homeland Security Investigations determined that the road sign was unique to Kansas. Agents were then able to find the exact stretch of road where the picture was taken and to locate the girl.

Monitor FOX6 News and FOX6Now.com for updates on this developing story.

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